Recognition is Like Drinking Water
The benefits of a single glass on an average day seem inconsequential. The benefits on a long, hot day are indescribable. Recognition programs are like drinking water.
When you drink enough water, you feel better. You think better. You perform better. You even live longer. Drinking water is such a simple thing and perhaps that’s why so many of us don’t give it the attention it deserves. We know the benefits. We believe the benefits. We have even experienced the benefits. We still don’t drink enough water.
Recognition programs can seem like small potatoes when compared to base pay, incentive plans and other elements of compensation. We often forget them while we focus on the “big stuff.” But the strongest performing companies know the secret power of recognition.
These companies understand that giving your employees a little unexpected boost can provide the fuel needed to move from the ordinary to extraordinary. Much like body quietly craves water, your staff quietly craves attention. Just like the cumulative effects of drinking enough water, recognition programs can cumulatively support performance for both individuals and entire groups.
These programs are a combination of paying attention to smaller things and providing rewards that may otherwise be unexpected. Who doesn’t want attention when they do something good? Who wouldn’t remember a nice extra that came along with the attention? (The answer to both is no one. It wasn’t really a test.)
Recognition programs work regardless of the level of experience of the individual. They work especially well for employees who have limited, or no, access to bigger incentive programs. $100 on a random Wednesday, or being invited to a nice lunch with the CEO can be more effective than adding $1,000 to an annual bonus program. The timing and experience can magnify the specialness of the reward.
When you are determining your programs for the upcoming year, budget a small amount for rewards and a larger amount for training. Unlike drinking water, recognition programs do not work well without some EQ. Dropping something on someone’s desk, or sending a form email will not work. In fact, recognition programs can be a great reinforcer for performance management training programs.
The amounts are small enough that you can recover if done wrong. The frequency is high enough to serve as a practice ground for having performance conversations. Over time you will see better discussions happening during merit season or “stay interviews.” Such a little thing with so much potential power.
I will leave you with the tweet below from comedian @nealbrennan.
“Heard a Burt Reynolds story: He was doing VO (Voice Over) for GTA IV (Grand Theft Auto), long session, tons of dialogue, he’s sweating, tired. Producer said, ‘Burt need anything?’ Burt goes, ‘Every once in a while, just gimme an ‘Attaboy, Burt.’ Let me know I’m doing okay.’”
And that, my friends and colleagues, is the amazing power of recognition.